One of the EFC’s goals is the elimination of all forms of sexual exploitation in Canada. To that end, in Out of Business the EFC proposes a Canadian adaptation of the Nordic model of law and policy on prostitution.
“A change in law that criminalizes the purchase of sexual services will help reshape attitudes about prostitution, making a stronger statement that in Canada we will not tolerate or condone sexual exploitation,” says Don Hutchinson, EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel. “Still, more than that is needed to put an end to sexual exploitation, so in Out of Business we have adapted law and policies that have proven successful elsewhere to work within Canada’s constitutional requirements.”
- Criminalize the purchase and attempted purchase of sex
- Maintain prohibitions against profiting from sexual exploitation
- Amend our laws to reflect the non-criminal nature of individuals who are being prostituted
- Invest in exit programs and support for prostituted persons
- Initiate a public awareness campaign to accompany such a change in the law.
The Nordic model, first enacted in Sweden in 1999, recognizes that the vast majority of prostituted persons are not prostituting willingly. It focuses on eliminating the demand for purchase of sexual services in an effort to abolish prostitution. Criminalizing the buyers, pimps and traffickers has proven successful in reducing rates of prostitution and sex trafficking and has been replicated in Norway and Iceland.
More than a decade of experience with the Nordic model has countries like The Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand rethinking their approach of legalization, decriminalization and efforts at regulation. Israel, Ireland and Scotland are taking steps toward laws targeting the purchase of sex. France’s Parliament voted last week in favour of proceeding with legislation that would impose strict fines on individuals who purchase or attempt to purchase sexual services.
“The Nordic model is one of the most coherent and successful prostitution policy models ever developed,” said Julia Beazley, policy analyst with the EFC. “It’s time we shift the focus of our laws toward those who exploit. There is no justice in laws that serve mainly to further victimize individuals who have been abused, marginalized or racialized. Nor is there justice in normalizing or legitimizing abuse and exploitation. We must be unambiguous in defining prostitution as a form of violence, abuse and control of vulnerable women, children and men.”
Prostitution has never been illegal in Canada. What we have currently is an approach in which prostitution itself is legal, but virtually all activities surrounding it are not.
Three key provisions of Canada’s Criminal Code have been challenged in the courts and are awaiting a final decision from the Supreme Court of Canada. The provisions in question relate to operating a common bawdy house or brothel, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution.
“Canadians have known for some time that our laws on prostitution are not working,” explains Hutchinson. “Despite three thorough government-initiated studies and reports since 1983, all agreeing that the status quo is unacceptable, our laws have remained unchanged. Now we have the experience of other countries, demonstrating what does and doesn’t work, on which to build. Regardless of the outcome at the Supreme Court, our laws and policies in this area are in need of change.”